Better Tracking of Toxic Explosive Needed at Munitions Sites
While the military refuses to update soil test methods at Badger Army Ammunition Plant, state regulators said that DuPont has expanded environmental testing to include all known forms of the carcinogenic explosive dinitrotoluene (DNT) at a former munitions plant in northern Wisconsin. Soil, sediment and groundwater at the former DuPont Barksdale Works Site in Bayfield County are now tested for all six isomers of DNT– the Army still tests for only two forms of DNT at the Badger site in rural Sauk County.
Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB), a local community group that is monitoring cleanup at the Badger site, believes that improved testing is necessary to accurately evaluate the Army’s proposal to stop all active cleanup at the site, including shutting down a massive groundwater pump-and-treat system.
Ironically, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) said that DuPont voluntarily upgraded its test methods due in part to conversations with regulators concerning the presence of the additional isomers in groundwater and private drinking water wells near Badger. According to the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, DNT can affect the blood, nervous system, liver, kidneys and male reproductive system in both humans and animals, and is a suspected human carcinogen.
While the Army at Badger regularly tests groundwater for all six forms of DNT, the military balked when state regulators issued an order in late 2011 requiring the facility to similarly test contaminated soils. The Army argued that there was not a “clearly identified legal obligation” to comply with the soil sampling sought by the WDNR. State regulators subsequently rescinded the order which would have required the Army to improve testing in areas that are causing widespread DNT groundwater contamination.
Members of other local organizations, including the Badger Restoration Advisory Board and the Badger Oversight Managements Commission, have passed resolutions supporting improved soil test methods capable of detecting all six forms of DNT.
The former DuPont Barksdale Works Site is located in Bayfield County, Wisconsin. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. ran the DuPont Barksdale Explosives Plant from 1905 to 1971. The company produced TNT, dynamite and other explosives for the military during World Wars I and II, and for the mining industry. Starting in 1997, environmental testing found residues of explosive chemicals in 17 drinking water wells located between the site and Lake Superior. Two isomers of the explosive dinitrotoluene (2,4-DNT and 2,6-DNT) were found in private well water above health-based groundwater standards.
In the past, environmental testing at the Barksdale site was limited to only two of the six known isomers of DNT. In 2008, DuPont began testing soils, sediments and groundwater for three additional DNT isomers: 2,3-DNT ,3,4-DNT, and 3,5-DNT. This summer, DuPont added the final DNT isomer (2,5-DNT) to its testing protocols according to correspondence recently submitted to state regulators.
Laura Olah, Executive Director Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB) E12629 Weigand's Bay South